Why Zapan From Alita: Battle Angel Looks So Familiar

Even as circumstances have dramatically altered the landscape of theatrical releases over the past year, we're still very much living in the age of the blockbuster with studios continuing to bet big on action-packed, effect-driven dramas that often front bombast over brains. Of course, even seemingly sure-fire blockbusters sometimes don't pay out as expected. And one of the more surprising misfires of recent memory was Robert Rodriguez's cyberpunk CGI spectacular Alita: Battle Angel which (respectable $400 million box office haul aside) still feels like one of the decade's bigger bombs.

Pitting Rosa Salazaar as the titular cyborg whose ticketed to become the leader of a revolution, Alita: Battle Angel indeed seemed destined for box office glory ahead of its 2019 release. Instead, it settled for a small but fiercely devoted fandom, middling critical notes, and franchise-cancelling box office returns.

As for what went wrong with Alita: Battle Angel, a certain lack of star-power may have contributed to the film's box office shortcomings. But even as Alita: Battle Angel undoubtedly would've benefitted from a big name or two on the marquee, the film still boasted an impressive cast full of faces more than familiar to even casual moviegoers. One of those faces was no doubt the actor who portrayed the berserker baddie known as Zapan in the film. It belongs to Mr. Ed Skrein. Here's why he looks so familiar.

Ed Skrein battled the Merc with a Mouth in Deadpool

If Ed Skrein's face does look at all familiar, it's likely because you're a fan of a certain foul-mouthed super who's had extensive dealings with Marvel's X-Men over the years. That super is none other than the Merc with a Mouth, who was brought to life on the big screen by Ryan Reynolds in 2016's hyper-violent superhero delight Deadpool. Essentially an origin story for Wade Wilson's transformation into the quick-healing, wise-cracking, katana and pistol-wielding badass, Deadpool depicted in excruciatingly vivid detail the dastardly acts that enabled the anti-hero's own life-altering mutations.

In the film, those acts came at the hands of a maniacal mutate by the name of Ajax, who giddily tortured Wilson to the brink of death before triggering the desired mutation. Yes, that was Ed Skrein portraying the sadistic, axe-swinging, feeling-no-pain madman Ajax in the film. And yes, Skrein's deliriously over-the-top turn as crazed mutant (don't call him Frances) was often every bit as entrancing as Reynolds' own chirpy turn as the titular hero. Skrein's performance was actually far more physically imposing as well, with the pair indulging in a couple of world-class fight scenes before Deadpool finally got the upper hand on his foe and (to the hilarious chagrin of noble-hearted X-Man Colossus) put the powerful Ajax down for good. 

Maleficent: Mistress of evil found Ed Skrein sprouting wings and breaking bad

To date, Ed Skrein's still young career has consisted of a solid mix of independent features (see: Tau and If Beale Street Could Talk) and proper tentpole fare (see: DeadpoolMidway, etc.), with Alita: Battle Angel serving as one the actor's biggest productions to date. As it happens, Skrein also featured prominently in another pricey 2019 studio project, the $185 million budgeted fantasy sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

That film found Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning reprising their roles from the 2014 original, and doing so in a world-expanding spectacular with magic, monsters, and mayhem to spare. It also found Jolie's seemingly reformed evil godmother having some serious issues with the family her goddaughter (Fanning) is about to marry into.

Now, if you're having trouble placing Ed Skrein's face in the sprawling cast of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, you might need to picture him with wings, horns, and lots of facial prosthetics, because that was him portraying the war-mongering Dark Fey leader Borra in the film. And even behind all the intricate makeup and lavish costuming, Skrein actually delivers a compelling, multi-layerd performance as the fearsome Borra — who seemingly breaks bad in the film, but ultimately does so in service of the greater good, thus becoming an intriguing anti-villain on par with Maleficent herself.

Ed Skrein was the O.G. Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones

As has dutifully been reported by every entertainment outlet under the sun, HBO's groundbreaking fantasy drama series Game of Thrones has come to be revered as simultaneously one of the best, and most divisive series to ever hit the airwaves. But even as the merits of the series wildly problematic (but often fantastic) final season continue to be debated, the series will forever be noted for putting a handful of notable young talents (including Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Richard Madden, and more) on the path to stardom.

In a perfect world, Ed Skrein's name would be among those spring-boarded to stardom from their time on the series. Alas, Skrein's short time on the show is mostly noted for his character's now infamous re-casting. And for those not in the know about that story, Ed Skrein was, in fact, the original actor cast as Daenerys Targaryen's (Clarke) fearsome ally, quick-witted advisor, and eventual lover Daario Naharis, making his series debut in a three-episode season 3 arc.

Unfortunately, when season 4 debuted, Game of Thrones fans were baffled to find a completely different actor (Michael Huisman) in the role, with Skrein's long blonde hair and fresh face supplanted by Huisman's cropped dark locks and bearded facade. It's still not clear exactly why Skrein was re-cast, but he made clear in a 2015 EW interview he wasn't entirely pleased about being replaced. And given the series' popularity after he departed, it's not hard to see why — even if he's clearly done well for himself in the years since.